First slot Machine
Slot machine byname one-armed bandit, known in Great Britain as a fruit machine, gambling device operated by dropping one or more coins or tokens into a slot and pulling a handle or pushing a button to activate one to three or more reels marked into horizontal segments by varying symbols. The machine pays off by dropping into a cup or trough from two to all the coins in the machine, depending on how and how many of the symbols line up when the rotating reels come to rest. Symbols traditionally used include stars, card suits, bars, numbers (7 is a favourite), various pictured fruits—cherries, plums, oranges, lemons, and watermelons—and the words jackpot and bar.
The term slot machine (short for nickel-in-the-slot machine) was originally also used for automatic vending machines but in the 20th century came to refer almost exclusively to gambling devices. The first coin-operated gambling devices in the United States date to the 1880s, although they were actually mere novelties—such as two toy horses that would race after a coin was inserted in the machine—rather than direct gambling machines. Set on a bar in a saloon or similar establishment, such devices attracted wagering between patrons. With most machines, however, the proprietor paid off winning customers in drinks or cigars or sometimes in the form of trade checks (specially minted metal tokens) that could be exchanged for refreshments. By 1888 machines that paid off in coins were in existence. In the first ones, inserted coins fell onto an internal balance scale, where they might cause it to tip and spill other coins out; among later devices were ones with a circular display and a spinning indicator that came to rest on or pointed to a number, a colour, or a picture.
The first slot machines in the modern sense were invented by Charles August Fey, at the time a mechanic in San Francisco, who built his first coin-operated gambling machine in 1894. The following year Fey built the 4-11-44 in his basement; it proved so successful at a local saloon that he soon quit his job and opened a factory to produce more units. In 1898 Fey built the Card Bell, the first three-reel slot machine with automatic cash payouts. The Card Bell had a handle that set the reels in motion when it was pushed down and playing card suitmarks that lined up to form poker hands. His next slot machine, the Liberty Bell, was built in 1899 and used horseshoes and bells as well as playing card suitmarks on the reels. Three bells lined up in a row meant the top payout. Chiefly because of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, only 4 of more than 100 Liberty Bell machines built by Fey survive. The Liberty Bell proved immensely popular among saloon patrons in San Francisco and was quickly copied by Fey’s competitors, such as the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago.
Forces of morality and the clergy, and then of law, frequently opposed the operation of slot machines. By the time San Francisco banned them in 1909, there were some 3, 300 slot machines in the city. In order to circumvent the law, Fey and his competitors built machines with no coin slots in which purchase and payout (perhaps in drinks and cigars) occurred surreptitiously across a saloon counter. Soon most slot-machine factories relocated, especially to Chicago.